Southwest Chicagoans fight for long-term mental health services

alt text By Jenny Shi, Environmental Health and Wellness Reporter, The Real Chi

Advocates and community members from southwest Chicago gathered at the City Hall Nov. 14 to urge officials to support a $25 million budget amendment for long-term mental health services and push for the reopening of several public mental health clinics that were closed in 2012. Aldermen Ricardo Muñoz (22nd Ward) and George Cardenas (12th Ward) introduced the budget amendment to the City Council Oct. 31.

“The city is spending $1.2 million on five clinics annually...The city isn’t doing enough for our community,” said Andrea Ortiz, a community organizer for Brighton Park Neighborhood Council. “If you could fund $800 million at the Lincoln Yards, you could fund $25 million to provide citywide local trauma mental health services.”

According to a report by the Collaborative for Community Wellness, there is an overwhelming demand for professional mental health services on southwest Chicago. However, the ratio of therapists in the southwest area is only 0.17 per 1000 community residents. In contrast, the ratio in Gold Coast is 4.45 per 1000 community residents.

The Collaborative was created to bring together mental health professionals, community residents and over 20 community-based organizations in order to meet those unmet needs of the community.

“All of these organizations came together, so we could push the movement of mental health — asking the government, asking elective officials to support this issue,” said Angelica Rosales, a community organizer works for the Collaborative. “As we all know, our communities are very in need of mental health services.”

Their report is part of a coordinated effort to demand public officials bring more mental health services to southwest chicago. In order to raise the awareness of this report, the Collaborative sent out letters with the findings to public officials who are in the mental health area, and organized multiple rallies in the southwest side and at the City Hall.

“Right now what we’re focusing on is getting the rest of elected officials that are part of the health board to support this issue, ” Rosales said. “Hopefully it will be on the ballot that will be votable for next year’s election 2019.”